The Senior Counsels Bar in Kenya has condemned Thursday’s arrest, searches and questioning of High Court Judges Said Chimambwe and Aggrey Muchelule.
Through the bar chairman, Dr. Fred Ojiambo, the senior counsels called on Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti to explain why he subjected the duo to public humiliation, thus demeaning their office as judges.
Speaking to journalists after witnessing the official launch of a five-year strategic plan for the Kenya Wildlife Service at the Watamu Marine National Park in Kilifi County Friday, Ojiambo said the DCI’s action was unwarranted.
“I speak as the chairman of the Senior Counsel Bar to express frustration, anger and disappointment at the arrest and the questioning of the honourable Mr. Justice Aggrey Muchelule and the honourable Mr. Justice Said Chitembwe yesterday and subjecting them to unwarranted searches in their chambers at the law courts,” an angry Dr. Ojiambo said.
On Thursday, criminal investigation officers stormed into and ransacked the offices of the two judges and then drove them to the DCI Headquarters for questioning over bribery claims.
Dr. Ojiambo termed the DCI’s action as is a dreadful act of impunity saying it struck at the very heart of the administration of justice and the rule of law.
“A judge’s chambers must be a place respected. People should not be able to just run in and search the person or the chambers of a judge. That is because not only is a judge’s position being undermined, but the positions of the various litigants whose matters are before the judge might very well be endangered,” he said.
The senior counsel said that although judges were not immune to lawful legal processes, such processes must ensure that the dignity of those being subjected to those processes is preserved in accordance with the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
“We are not saying that anybody is beyond search or arrests but what we are saying is that we must do so with the dignity that the constitution expects of everyone, judges not excepted,” he said.
Noting that it was wrong for the officers to have conducted the arrests and interrogations in the manner they did, Dr. Ojiambo told the DCI to explain why his officers harangued, belittled and subjected the duo to undignified treatment.
“This is something we cannot countenance as it is not expected of people of responsible behavior,” he said.
Earlier on, Chief Justice Martha Koome in a statement, said she had been briefed over the arrest of the two judges that has caused anxiety among judges and judicial officers. Koome assured all judges and judicial judges that the independence of the judiciary and their Constitutional duties are protected by the Constitution, hence they should continue discharging their duties without any fear, in accordance with their oath of office.
Koome however said no formal report had been made to her as the Head of Judiciary or as chair of the Judicial Service Commission. She noted that the matter had been filed at the High Court, stating that she will await the findings of the investigations and thereafter make a full statement.